Terence Lester is a storyteller, public scholar, speaker, community activist, and author who is the founder and executive director at Love Beyond Walls, a nonprofit organization focused on raising poverty and homelessness awareness and community mobilization.
At the age of sixteen, Terence was a high-school dropout and member of a gang. A rebellious teen, he spent time living on the streets and even attempted to take his own life. At twenty, he was arrested. In jail, he met a man who talked to him about life decisions. It was the first time he had ever heard the good news. By the start of the following year, he was submitting to his own call to share his testimony to change the lives of others.
Three ideals drive Terence: (1) anyone can make a difference, (2) we don’t live forever, (3) and it’s worth dedicating one’s life to making sure no one feels invisible.
He’s known for nationwide campaigns that bring awareness to homelessness, poverty, and economic inequality. His awareness campaigns have been featured on MLK50, CNN, Good Morning America, CNN, Essence Magazine, TEDx, TVONE, Creative Mornings, USA Today, NBC, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) National Magazine, and NBCNews, as well as AJC, Black Enterprise, Rolling Out, and Upworthy. These campaigns have been viewed by millions of people worldwide.
In 2016, Terence led the March against Poverty 2016, where he walked from Atlanta, GA, (the SCLC Headquarters) to the White House (over 800 miles) to bring attention to homelessness in the U.S.
Terence led the 2018 March against Poverty as he walked from Atlanta to Memphis (386 miles). He finished the march and spoke at the historic Lorraine Motel for the 50th anniversary of MLK’s assassination.
In 2019, Terence opened Dignity Museum, the first museum in the U.S. to represent the homeless—out of a shipping container.
Terence has delivered countless sermons and speeches at conferences, churches, schools, corporate settings, classrooms, and several unique spaces, including the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial in Washington, DC, the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Center for Civil and Human Rights, CCDA, Radio One’s Praise in the Park, Morehouse College, Alabama University, and Paine College. He has spoken on the same platform as many other civil rights activists, such as Dr. Bernice King, Roland Martin, Gina Belafonte, Dr. Vonnetta West, Carlos Rodriguez, Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, and Tamika D. Mallory.
Terence’s personal approach combines storytelling and digital media to help illustrate social justice issues with practical strategies to solving these ailments.
He holds an associate degree in Media Production (2005), a B.A. in Pastoral Leadership (2008), a Master of Education in Counseling (2010), a Master of Arts in Theological Studies (2012). He is currently a Ph.D. Candidate at Union Institute and University with a concentration in Public Policy and Social Change.
He has served on several ministerial staffs and has authored seven books and three traditionally published works including: I See You: How Love Opens Our Eyes to Invisible People, When We Stand: The Power of Seeking Justice Together, and his forthcoming book, All God’s Children: How Confronting Buried History Can Build Racial Solidarity, all with InterVarsity Press. He also has a children’s book coming out with IVP Kids that he co-authored with his fourteen-year-old daughter, Zion Lester, which deals with homelessness, belonging, inclusion, and encouraging children to serve others with empathy and compassion.
Terence has also received numerous awards for his community activism, including: being named one of Atlanta’s top 500 leaders by Atlanta Magazine, being named one of Coca-Cola’s History Shakers, receiving the National Urban League Humanitarian Award, Brawny Giant’ Award, the American Express NextGen Award, the SCLC Social Advocacy Award, Atlanta Voice’s 50 under 50, the True to Atlanta Award presented by the Atlanta Hawks, Fulton County Schools Service Award, and Plywood People’s Innovator Award.
Terence happily married to his best friend, Cecilia Lester, and they have two amazing children, Zion Joy and Terence II.